The religious gathering spearheaded by Texas Gov. Rick Perry this past weekend in Houston amounted to a major political gamble that paid off for the Texas Republican, who is widely expected to run for president in 2012.

Perry had begun organizing “The Response” — as the event was known — long before he started to entertain the possibility of running for president.

But with Perry now widely assumed to be a candidate in the not-too-distant future, a small(ish) crowd or a weak — or too heavily political — performance by the governor would assuredly have subjected him to criticism.

Instead, the crowd at Reliant Stadium was estimated at 30,000 — not too shabby — and Perry played a largely behind-the-scenes role in the event.

Mark McKinnon, a Texas-based Republican consultant unaligned in the 2012 presidential race, called the event “a pretty bold move for a guy about to throw his hat in the ring,” adding: “There were so many ways the event could have gone wrong … it came off pretty smoothly overall.”

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